In the aftermath of Jim Ryan’s successful reign as head of PlayStation, attention has now turned to Sony’s new focus on live service games. The company has announced that 60% of its spending will go towards live service games, compared to the previous 40% allocated to single-player games. Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier has reported that insiders at Sony are concerned about the company’s vision, particularly regarding its investments in service games and niche hardware like PSVR 2 and PlayStation Portal.
Sony’s big-budget studios, including Naughty Dog, Insomniac, and Guerrilla, are all working on multiplayer live service games. Naughty Dog’s Last of Us Factions game has already been announced, but a recent report suggested that new hire Bungie believed the game was not up to par. Bungie, known for its successful live service game Destiny 2, has its own upcoming service games in the works, but none of them are PlayStation exclusives.
The goal for Sony is to create live service games that generate recurring revenue through seasons and microtransactions, rather than relying on one-and-done single-player games. However, insiders are questioning this shift away from Sony’s strength in creating acclaimed single-player experiences. History has shown that studios that excel at single-player games often struggle when transitioning to live service offerings. BioWare’s Anthem, Crystal Dynamics’ Marvel’s Avengers, and Gearbox’s Battleborn are examples of failed attempts to create compelling live service games.
While some argue that sticking within the world of single-player franchises like The Last of Us may offer some guarantees of quality, there is still skepticism about the ability of these studios to deliver successful live service experiences. The most popular multiplayer games in the industry have either been established for a long time or emerged as unexpected successes. Even Bungie had the advantage of building on the foundation of the successful Halo franchise.
Forcing predominantly single-player studios to divert resources and talent towards live service games is seen by some as a risky move that may detract from their ability to create successful single-player projects. There is concern that the live service trend may be a bubble that is on the verge of bursting, as seen by the failures of recent titles.
In conclusion, while Sony’s focus on live service games may be seen as a strategic move to generate ongoing revenue, there are doubts about the ability of predominantly single-player studios to deliver compelling live service experiences. The failures of previous attempts by other studios to make such transitions further raise concerns about the success of Sony’s live service plans.